I wrote this comment in response to the latest article by Kurt Peacock in the T/J.
“April 14, 2012 07:42:33PM
No compelling narrative? Where have you been, Mr. Peacock?
Your graphs are nice and help to put the city’s pension plan deficit in perspective, but they don’t tell anything about the real story.
This is a story that wins literary prizes.
Seven new councillors were sworn in on May 25, 2004. They had no idea how City Hall worked, and little or no knowledge of the pension plan, other than that there was a huge deficit.
Glen Tait and Chris Titus were appointed to the pension board; John Ferguson was appointed to the finance committee.
Councillors were given a large binder with information about all of the city boards; but it contained only three pages about the pension board.
Those three pages outlined the power of the trustees; said that the pension board was required to make one presentation to Common Council each year; and contained a note that the board of trustees could make recommendations to Council. Councillors’ first indication that John Nugent was a trustee on the pension board came on October 24, 2004 with the first disclosure of his multiple conflicts of interest as a beneficiary and pension board trustee while he was also the city solicitor. The first real information that councillors received about the pension fund was a minor presentation made by Andrew Beckett in Nov. 2004, and it contained no information about the deficit.
The pension board wrote to their actuary a bit later asking him to recommend changes to the pension plan without changing any of the benefits.
He replied that he had already suggested changes to the plan that would have made a real difference, but if they insisted they didn’t want to consider changing benefits the only things that would make a difference would be increasing employee contributions combined with a rebound of the stock market.
This information was never revealed to Common Council.
Repeated questions about the pension fund from Mr. Ferguson were never answered, and some of the information that should have been provided to councillors between 2004 and 2008 has only come to light because of this lawsuit.
When Mr. Ferguson, through his own research, started asking very pointed questions and making statements about the responsibilities of Council to the Pension Plan, a certain spin was put on them to make it look like he was saying things about the Pension Board and it’s members, and he was threatened with a lawsuit unless he apologized.
I could go on for pages just using MY notes from the trial!
From my perspective, the pension plan and it’s deficit are only the backdrop for the real story.
What do YOUR notes say, Mr. Peacock?
Are you still working from the Plaintiff’s pleadings?
How many pages of notes have you made?
How often and for how long have you attended this trial?
Perhaps I missed you much of the time.
So much for in-depth reporting by the T/J. I think even commentary should have more weight!”